Judith Rich Harris
Judith Rich Harris (10 February 1938 – December 29 2018) was an American psychologist. Her books include The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do and No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality.
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- The use of "nurture" as a synonym for "environment" is based on the assumption that what influences children's development, apart from their genes, is the way their parents bring them up. I call this the nurture assumption. Only after rearing two children of my own and coauthoring three editions of a college textbook on child development did I begin to question this assumption. Only recently did I come to the conclusion that it is wrong.
- There is no question that the adult caregivers play an important role in the baby's life. It is from these older people that babies learn their first language, have their first experiences in forming and maintaining relationships, and get their first lessons in following rules. But the socialization researchers go on to draw other conclusions: that what children learn in the early years about relationships and rules sets the pattern for later relationships and later rule-following, and hence determines the entire course of their lives. I used to think so too. I still believe that children need to learn about relationships and rules in their early years; it is also important that they acquire a language. But I no longer believe that this early learning, which in our society generally takes place within the home, sets the pattern for what is to follow. Although the learning itself serves a purpose, the content of what children learn may be irrelevant to the world outside their home. They may cast it off when they step outside as easily as the dorky sweater their mother made them wear.
- Birth order effects are like those things that you think you see out of the corner of your eye but that disappear when you look at them closely. They do keep turning up but only because people keep looking for them and keep analyzing and reanalyzing their data until they find them.
- Poor old Mum and Dad: publicly accused by their son, the poet, and never given a chance to reply to his charges. They shall have one now, if I may take the liberty of speaking for them.
How sharper than a serpent's tooth
To hear your child make such a fuss.
It isn't fair—it's not the truth—
He's fucked up, yes, but not by us.
- Is it dangerous to claim that parents have no power at all (other than genetic) to shape their child's personality, intelligence, or the way he or she behaves outside the family home? ... A confession: When I first made this proposal ten years ago, I didn't fully believe it myself. I took an extreme position, the null hypothesis of zero parental influence, for the sake of scientific clarity. ... The establishment's failure to shoot me down has been nothing short of astonishing.
- The Edge Annual Question — 2006: WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?
Quotes about her work
- I predict it will come to be seen as a turning point in the history of psychology.
- The Nurture Assumption Web Site
- Blame your peers, not your parents, author says, APA Monitor 29(10), October 1998, p. 9
- The Parent Trap, Newsweek September 7, 1998, pp. 52-59.
- Peer Pressure, New York Times Book Review September 13, 1998, pp. 14-15
- Judith Rich Harris, 80, Dies; Author Played Down the Role of Parents, New York Times, January 1, 2019.